Now, this was what I was trying to write about last week.
The product called Topps Archives really tugs at my heartstrings. I loved the concept of it when 2001 Topps Archives was launched.
For those unfamiliar with the product, The first time the words Topps and Archives were put together, it was in 1983, when Topps created a set honoring their iconic 1952 set. With certain exceptions (because they could not get the subjects or his estate's permission) it was a standard-sized reprint set of all 1952 Topps cards. It was an alternative for those who could not afford the actual cards.
In 1991, Topps reprinted it's 1953 set, again with a couple of omissions. But this time, Topps added a number of "what could have been" cards had they thought doing them. Among the subjects were a young Hank Aaron (imagine if he had a card in the 1953 set).
Two more editions were unleashed to the masses. In 1994, Topps Archives put out a 1954 revival that needed help from that other card company. Because it had the rights to Ted Williams' likeness and images, Upper Deck included card #'s 1 and 250 in it's 1994 All-Time Heroes product. Along with these two cards, UD was nice enough to make a card #259 (Topps did create card #'s 251-258, including a "rookie card" of Roberto Clemente)...of Mickey Mantle.
Finally, in what was to be a foreshadowing of what would eventually the Topps Archives I'd come to love in the first part of the new century, 1995 saw the creation of a Brooklyn Dodgers commemorative set, featuring reprints of all the Brooklyn Dodgers (plus some new ones created just for this product) that graced its cardboard.
Fast forward to 2001, Topps' 50th anniversary. Part of its year-long celebration was the return of Topps Archives. The concept of recreating the first and last cards of 200 retired players was pure genius. Yes, there'd be reprint rookie cards of Hall of Famers (many of whom I'd never be able to afford), but there were also the "Fan-Favorites." Role players, as well as those legendary in the collective hearts and minds of their fans and franchises, were included in this production that took two series to complete. This is the set I loved and cherish so much that I have it stored in a Topps binder that has, what else, Topps cards on the front of it. The following year, Topps brought back the Archives name, featuring reprinted cards from 200 player's "best seasons." It was a great concept. It featured a number of players that didn't appear the previous year. The only drawback was the fact that Topps "included" the player's stats from that year's design. This was great for cards from the 50's through 70's. But cards of players who were "traded" or signed as free agents, and had actual cards from the Traded era were relegated to their cards before the transaction. So you had a 1987 card of Andre Dawson, not as a Cub, but as an Expo.
Now fast forward to 2011. Topps Lineage was introduced in 2011. Although the base cards included had a generic design, the big draw of the product was the tribute to past insert sets, cards included in packs from the 60's and 70's. Although Lineage was a one-year wonder, Topps thought to bring back the Archives name the following year. This time, the concept consisted of featuring four designs from the company's history, featuring a mix of current and past players, as well as featured inserts from the past as well. The insert sets featured throughout the years not only consisted of cards from the eponymous product, but from other brands as well (Stadium Club) and other sports (I think there was a basketball insert one year...and some were from Topps' NFL product).
This was all well and good. But Topps already has a Heritage line honoring past sets. Why create a second set that utilizes past designs with present players. I have the first two years' sets of this current revival. But after 2014, I stopped. It's become "Heritage Lite" to me. The inserts and autographs are fine (at least the first year's worth), and some of the inserts themes are great (one year included cards from the movie Major League), but I couldn't see my self continuing buying this set other than a few packs. I wasn't then, nor am I now, a Topps Heritage collector, and this set was just a reminder of it.
By now, if I haven't bored you with Archives' long celebrated history (at least you must be wondering what's my point??!), you're asking yourself why did I waste my time...
Well, I'll tell you (and now for more backstory).
From 1996 through 2000, Topps included a retrospective set of cards, honoring one player. In 1996, as he had passed away the year before, Topps included reprinted cards from Mickey Mantle's legendary Topps cardboard career. The set consisted of 19 Topps and Bowman cards featuring the Commerce Comet, split into two series. Card #20, a reprint of the Mick's 1952 Bowman card, was included in 1996 Bowman. Another 16, featuring Mantle and other players, were inserted the following year in packs of 1997 Topps. Not only did Topps include reprints of Mantle, but they also included reprinted cards from Willie Mays' career, split into two series, from 1952 through 1973. In 1998, reprints of Roberto Clemente's cards from 1955 through 1973 were inserted into packs. Nolan Ryan, and his 27 Topps cards, were featured in 1999. Finally, Hank Aaron was honored with a commemorative set of his own.
Last week, Topps announced that a 23-card Tribute to Derek Jeter will be among the inserts in its 2017 Topps Archives product. It will consist of reprinted cards of Derek Jeter's Topps cards from 1993 (the draft pick card) through 2015.
But there's a catch.
There will be 20 cards that will be easy to find. Three will be short-printed:
- His 1993 rookie card
- His 2015 card (his final card)
- His infamous 2007 card, complete with Mickey Mantle in the dugout and President George W. Bush in the stands
Remember that one?
Now, this isn't the first time Topps has honored Jeter in this way. A couple of years ago, Topps included "framed reprint" cards of the Yankee legend. These cards were more expensive individually than the cards they were honoring.
I think if anyone tried hard enough, he or she can get all of Jeter's cards, from rookie to final - including the Bush/Mantle version - for just under 100, and that's being liberal. It's bad enough that Topps is putting this set (with variations, parallels, and the like) in Archives, but as I have every Topps set since 1976, I have every single one of Derek Jeter's eponymous cards.
Now I know he's been retired for a couple of seasons now (and he'll be a first-time dad to boot). But is it too soon for a Jeter retrospective? Was there nobody available? Were there no other players whose name could have been uttered in the same breath as Mantle, Mays, Clemente, Ryan, and Aaron that could have gotten the reprint treatment? Is there not another player with enough of a card library that could have been featured?
So I have to ask myself: do I want to have a go at trying to complete this set (or getting one off the Bay)? Should I do it? Would it be worth the time, money, effort? If I find one on the auction site, should I just focus on the reprint set? Or should I swallow my pride and buy an Archives set?
It's early yet. The product doesn't come out until later in the year. Maybe I will...maybe I won't. I don't know.